What is DSTAR

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Like many of the things we use in our every day life our hobby’s are no different when it comes to technology advances.  Now there are some of us who embrace these technical changes and see these advances as ways to better the hobby.  However, I also know there are those who see this as a burden and have no interest in moving along with the technology.  I do not want anyone to think that this is a burden and hope that those who do not want to use the new technologies are not going to feel left out.  Take for insistence when you first started to get into the hobby, what was the new exciting part of the hobby that excited you.  Was it the introduction of EchoLink, IRLP or was it smaller portable HF radios and antennas allowing you to take your hobby with you?  For me it was when I discovered DSTAR and DMR digital formats.  This excited me as I saw the huge potential for making contacts all over the world from my HT.

I am writing this little blog or post in an effort to engage you in the conversation of what digital radio is and what it can do.  I am by far no expert but rather an enthusiast in digital radio.  I am more knowledgeable  in the DSTAR technology than any of the other formats such as C4FM, DMR or  P25.  What I do know about DSTAR is it can communicate both voice and data at low speed and high speed rates at the same time.  Think of the potential to take a photo with your android phone or tablet and have the ability to send that photo around the world to your friend while in a QSO.  Think of having the ability to keep the EOC up to date with live data input of things like residence who are checking into a reception centre.  Having the ability to go into the field to complete a damage assessment of a piece of infrastructure and provide a detailed description complete with a picture taken with a android device.

DSTAR (Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio) was developed in the late 1990’s by the  Japan Amateur Radio League.  The protocol or technology is used by ICOM radio and most recently by Kenwood radio and is exclusive to the Amateur Radio line of radios.  DSTAR radios work in analogue or digital (DV) modes.  However DSTAR repeaters only operate in Digital (DV) mode.  In order to run a DSTAR repeater you also require a DSTAR controller.  You can connect multiple repeaters to a single controller.  For example you can connect a VHF or C module repeater and a UHF or B module repeater and a 23CM or A module repeater to a single controller.  In order to use the repeater to talk beyond your local repeater area the controller must be connected to a computer and to the internet.  Advances in computer technology allow us to use computers like the Raspberry Pi 3 to run the software known as ircDDB gateway software.  The gateway is where the magic is.  Much like IRLP or EchoLink the ircDDB gateway routes your radio conversation across the internet to the intended contact.  Along with the voice portion of the information there is slow speed data embedded in the conversation that identifies your call sign and your GPS position if you have GPS.  This information will appear on the radio of anyone listening to your QSO.  New call routing technologies are improving how you connect with other DSTAR users and even work moving ahead to allow DSTAR and DMR users to use the same reflector to have QSO with groups of users.  There are many daily NETS on the DSTAR network that you can check in on.

As I stated above there are changes happening all time with different ways to use the DSTAR network.  This is all because the technology is open source and truly driven by amateurs experimenting and developing new ways to use the radio and technology.  Digital radio is exciting and it is the next big thing to hit our hobby, I am excited to learn and experiment with it and hope you will be to.  If you have any feedback please send it off to me I would love to chat more about our hobby.